Thursday, April 01, 2010

Craigslist Fools' Day

The following two "estate sale" ads, found in the Bay Area craigslist, strike me as a hoax. But are they? Or is the first one actually legit? Who uses the the terms "wheretofore" or "thereof" nowadays, even if they do supposedly go by the name of "Bathseda Barrington"?

The first ad:

Fine estate sale, large record collection (Oracle, California)

Date: 2010-03-31, 10:37AM PDT
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]

My name is Yserba Berrington. My father, Bathseda Berrington was an independent sales rep for small record companies in the 1950s. He amassed a fairly large collection into the thousands of the records he distributed and kept them carefully stored in our house in Brookdale Arizona, where they stayed until I moved here to Oracle, California in the 1970s.

My father always did things his own way and he left careful instructions for the accurate disposal of his belongings:

"On Easter Sunday of 2010, my last remaining child shall hold a reasonable sale of what remains of my worldly goods and possesions. Wheretofore I wish these possesions to be shared by the many, the terms of the sale shall be as portends:

The sale shall start promptly at 10:59 the morn thereof. The participants will walk around the house two times, then enter through the garage door. The pricing for my record collection is as follows: $0.25 for the first record, $1.00 for the 2nd record, $5.00 for the 3rd record, $10.00 for the 4th record. There shall be a 4 record limit per person per visit. Said person may return after walking around the house 2 times, and the same rules will apply again. I leave the world an assortment of unknown enchantment, music rarely heard, unique and kind. Please be respectful of my last remaining offspring and belongings. Bless You Kind Souls".

There also will be furniture, some photographs of oxen and pigeons father raised, as well as some various mementos of a life well lived, including his journey to the Saharan desert with Cecil Klein. The first 10 people to email will be given the address to this once in a lifetime event.

And the response: 

Regarding the Berrington Estate (Oracle, California)

Date: 2010-04-01, 8:09AM PDT
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]

Regarding the estate of one Bathseda Berrington. I am Walegnacious Barrington III, fond brother of Bathseda Berrington. My niece Yserba is mentally ill and has not the authority or right to sell my late brothers records and artifacts- that is my responsibility as stated in Bathseda's real will. Yserba coaxed her father into signing a will of her making while in his last days- it can not contend in a court of said law.

Please do not patronize Yserba's sale- it will be in dire violation of my late brothers wishes and liability may extend to many in the wake of said event.

I alone am authorized to entertain offers for the correct fulfillment of the Berrington Trust for the Preservation of the Western Oxen. I may be contacted fortnightly and discerningly.

I apologize for Yserbas abberant behavior, and pray you can forgive her as I myself do. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Choose your own adventure...or don't, because, really, choice is all an illusion anyways

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"I see how boys have been brought up, and I see this across the planet, to be tough, to be hardened, to distance themselves from their tenderness, to not cry. I actually realized once in Kosovo, when I watched a man break down, that bullets are actually hardened tears, that when we don't allow men to have their girl self and have their vulnerability, and have their compassion, and have their hearts, that they become hardened and hurtful and violent."

--Eve Ensler, from "Embrace your inner girl" on TED.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Feminine Musique: Top 15 Feminist Songs and Performances

Recently I caught a sorry excuse for a feminist song list, entitled, "A (Sort of) Feminist Playlist" that the Gawker faux-feminist site Jezebel posted. They were inspired by The Onion AV Club's even weaker list: "A soundproofed room of one's own: 17 well-intended yet misguided feminist anthems." While both sites raised some good questions about why there is such an evident dearth in powerful feminist anthems in popular music today, neither one really pointed to any of the good stuff of decades past, or any of the songs that have come up more recently in the indie world. I think it's a disservice to even raise the topic if these writers aren't willing to commit a modicum of time and research to highlight some of raw power and glory that is out there. So. Ahem:

1. Lesley Gore, "You Don't Own Me":

This song came out just after Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique was released in '63 and, like Friedan's groundbreaking treatise, was waaaay before its time. Perhaps the first pop song in America to feature a woman declaring her own independence and equality.

2. Tupac Shakur, "Keep Ya Head Up":

If all rap songs were like this, rap music would still be popular and selling. Tupac's plea for feminism is so basic and logical, yet so brilliant:

And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it's time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don't we'll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can't make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one

So will the real men get up
I know you're fed up ladies, but keep your head up

3. Le Tigre, "Hot Topic":

A laundry list of powerful female activists and artists; all set to a groovy sixties jam. I hope young girls listen to this with a pen and google the hell out of these names.

4. Tori Amos, "Cornflake Girl":

Fun fact: Tori Amos was literally a cornflake girl in the '80s. Years upon ages before this song ever came out, Amos did an ad for Kellogg's Just Right cornflakes--but that's not what this song is about. It was inspired by Alice Walker's novel Possessing the Secret of Joy, about a young African woman forced to undergo female genital mutilation by her mother. Amos, exploring themes of female betrayal, grouped women into two categories: the "raisin girls" who were open-minded and multicultural, and "cornflake girls" who were narrowminded and prejudiced.

5. Ani DiFranco, "32 Flavors":

No list could be complete without Ani DiFranco, founder of Righteous Babe records. She was a cult figure among the Intro to Feminism set in most if not all colleges across the country and, unfortunately, faded into the background after ostensibly giving up on lesbianism and marrying a man. But from whatever perspective she was coming from at this stage in her career, I think she captures misogyny and competition among women really well in this passage:

and god help you if you are an ugly girl
course too pretty is also your doom
cause everyone harbors a secret hatred
for the prettiest girl in the room
and god help you if you are a phoenix
and you dare to rise up from the ash
a thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy
while you are just flying back

6. Martha Wainwright, "Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole":

Martha Wainwright breaks my heart with every word of this song. I love her weathered, vulnerable crooner voice so very much. And while I'm not entirely sure what she means with some of these lyrics, I do think I pick up on the rebellious nature of this song, refusing to "put on a smile" and "say I'm alright for you" while pining to be a male musician that can "stamp his feet to a different beat."

7. The Vaselines/Divine, "You Think You're A Man":

I first heard this song through the Scottish male/female grunge duo called The Vaselines, who covered it in the late '80s. But John Waters ingénue Divine originally performed the song, turning it into a club hit that sounds more akin to a disco classic like "I Will Survive." This is just a fun, playful song belittling a man who can't satisfy sexually.

10. Beyonce, "If I Were A Boy/You Oughta Know":

The Onion's list thinks Beyonce's gender-reversal theorizing in "If I Were A Boy" is undermined by the singer's vulnerable intonation throughout. But I think they miss the point entirely. This song seems to be written from the perspective of a woman wronged, contemplating the heteronormative dynamic whereby women generally do the majority of emotional work: from cooking and comforting a man in the home, to waiting by the phone while he parties with buddies and flirts, to accepting the fact that he fools around--this is the standard emotional work of a heterosexual woman. And her transition to a cover of Alanis Morrisette's "You Oughta Know" is brilliant and powerful here. It's obvious that both songs compliment one another because they allow the singer to cross an emotional spectrum from the perspective of a woman wronged. And there's nothing at all vulnerable or demur about Beyonce's powerful shoulder moves, crotch-grabbing, and warrior-like ensemble in this performance.

11. Neko Case, "Pretty Girls":

It's hard to interpret the exact meaning to some of the lyrics in this country ballad by the divine Ms. Case. Some believe it's about girls getting knocked up and feeling their only worth is giving birth. But I think it may have more to do with rape. Serious note: I once knew a girl, briefly, who was brutally raped and left for dead in a ravine just as I was approaching 21. She was a year or two younger, as I recall, a virgin, and her body wasn't found until weeks later. What was worse was that a close friend of mine was forced to go to court as her "character witness." That is, to prove to a judge and jury that this young woman was not promiscuous and perhaps flirted with her abductor prior to the violent act. This girl's killer had been miraculously let out of jail after several convictions of stalking, intrusion, and abduction in the past. That's all that I think of when I listen to this passage:

our hearts are so tried and so innocent
When your flimsy blue gowns tied around you
Around curves so comely and sinister
They blame it on you pretty girls

12. Salt n' Pepa, "None of Your Business":

Classic song about women owning their sexuality and doing whatever it is they choose to do with it. 'Nuff said.

13. Sleater-Kinney, "Modern Girl":

There's no real reading between the lines with this one. The saccharine, harmonica-laden track is just a simple little story of illusory romance. But juxtaposed with the ferocity and raw, hard rock sound of the women of Sleater-Kinney, becomes a punctuated pomo classic.

14. Patti Smith, "Rock n'Roll Nigger":

I understand and completely endorse the appropriation of the "N" word in this song, and marvel at Smith's bombast in using it to describe Jesus and grandma and anyone "outside of society" --and with how she describes the "N" word, who wouldn't want to be one (an "N" word)? Not exactly a feminist anthem, but deals with oppression, social stigmas, et al, with unparalleled ferocity using a distinctly feminine voice. 

15. Sarah Jones, "Your Revolution":

"This is Sarah Jones, not Foxy Brown." And this is one badass mockery of misogynist hip hop culture while honoring Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."

I probably left out a hundreds of other songs that will haunt me in days upon years to come, but it is what it is.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

I love you Weiner

Andrew Weiner (D-NY). Bless you for being an honest man in Washington.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On the other line

Mother Jones did this amazing photo essay, "Phone Sex Workers," just in time for Valentine's Day. The piece below hit me the hardest--these images really seemed to illuminate how very complex and curious human sexuality can be.

Just last night I received possibly the most disturbing phone sex call I’d had in a long time. A caller shot himself with me on the phone. Things like this always scare me. My current track record stands at one confession of incestuous sexual abuse, and two other suicides.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Notes on the Vancouver Winter Olympics, Opening Ceremony

In case you were too busy living your life to watch it, I can sum it all up for you! First off, I have always hated the Olympics. The only reason why I watched this year is because my housemate has Tivo and I thought it would be fun to watch some of the spectacle and fast forward through the cheese. Sports and nationhood are destructive social constructs that pit human beings against other vicious masses under a false sense of "team building" in the aims of proving themselves superior to others. As such, both are inherently asinine and ultimately unsatisfying if one indulges in them as a means of gaining personal identity.

That said, I love Vancouver and I love Canadians. And I really wanted them to have their time to shine. But here are some notes on the garbage that I suffered through:

1. The untimely death of a 21 year-old Georgian luge racer, play by play and shown on repeat, with sports casters including Brian Williams and some other douche providing grave narration to add a dash of sensitivity. Bonus points to NBC for showing the shots of the young luger's bloodied face in the arms of paramedics!

2. Interviews with hot American snowboarder chicks wearing lots of makeup. News flash: they were outwardly confident by their impending performances, yet complementary towards competitors, and honored to be there, all at the same time!

3. A documentary in which Canada and America are portrayed as fierce allies in combating atrocities around the globe. A particularly strange emphasis is given to the Iran Hostage Crisis, where a member of the Canadian Embassy gave Americans false documents so that they could seek asylum in Canada. After explaining the intricacies of the covert Americans-as-Canuks smuggling scheme, it is then admitted that the Canadian official was really working for the CIA and was in fact American. Moral of the story: sometimes Americans need to impersonate Canadians so that the world doesn't target them.

4. Some dude snowboards through some giant olympic rings and down a half pipe. I think there were fireworks in the background but I can't remember, it was that instantly forgettable.

5. Native American/Canadian tribes are gathered in packs at various points on the perimeter of the olympic stage, slowly, as the booming white man voice screams: Dance for me, my little monkeys! they begin to dance and call out their ancient warrior calls and move towards the center of the stage. It is obvious to all viewers around the world that the Natives are way into the white man telling them to dance before a live audience of millions of white people.

6. A chubby fellow in a beret and ethnic vest throws down a little spoken word atop a mighty, precarious pillar. He gives some key insights into the character of the Canadian peoples:
"We're more than just hockey and fishing lines/off the rocky coast of the Maritimes/and some say what defines us/is something as simple as 'please' and 'thank you'/well we say that too/ but we are more than genteel or civilized."
This was probably the highlight of the event as the rhyming here was simply superb. And if poetry is nothing more than just throwing some words together that rhyme then by all accounts this sweet little poet nugget has really outdone himself.

7. Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado sang a little ditty, and it went something like this:
From near, from far/It's clear, wherever you are/This is your moment, your time to run like the wind/Dream big, aim high/Even believe you can fly
8. Canadian river dancing: like the Irish folk tap, but with punk rockers dressed in leather and jean jackets.

That is all. I'm sure there were more acts I've left out, but at that point I had seen way too much already. Oh Canada! Way to go!

The circle of life

Warning: the following video contains images not suitable for any persons sensitive to sexual violence in the animal kingdom. Viewer discretion is advised.

Quote of the Week:

Dad: So honey, you ever got them Tibetan flags in the mail? In all those different colors, you can hang 'em up n shit? I got 'em hangin' up by over the heating vent near the kitchen. Like God waving with 50,000 btu."

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Star Wars/Richard Pryor blast from the past

Don't know much about this video, have no idea where it came from, but I do know that this sketch used original Star Wars costumes and the set of Mos Eisley Cantina. Enjoy!

Mamma Mia! in the subconscious

If you've ever thought about watching the Meryl Streep/ Pierce Brosnon blockbuster musical "Mamma Mia!" based on the play that was based on a set of disjointed ABBA songs, ABBA being a band that was based on a couple Swedes winning the Eurovision Song Contest for "Waterloo," think no more. It's really excruciating to sit through, and will leave you with nightmares. Fortunately in my case, I got a good dream out of it. I woke up this morning and had to jot it all down:
I came from a family of Greek gods of the sea. We went to an expensive scucba shop to buy swimming equipment. I bought really expensive shampoos and conditioners that were made out of things like seaweed, which was ironic because why did I need that. Then, I went to test some of the new equipment out: like the underwater backpack with the sports bottle. The sports bottle was made of metal and stretched out like an accordion. I swam a few strokes and complained to my mother about its weight. I asked her why I didn’t just get a plastic one that weighed just a fraction of this terrible weight. Later, I went on land and met a girl who said she could help me get a job as a waitress. She was just getting off of work and still had her TGIFridays uniform on. She got me a free Amstel Light at the snack bar of a park. I talked to my mother for a while because I was trying to figure out who my real parents were. Since the family I swam with were all part gods/part people, one of my parents must actually be my sibling because I had to be half human somehow. She said I was right, and that my real mother was Tina Fey.
The whole Greek thing I attribute to the fact that the movie is based on a Greek island, and Aphrodite is mentioned. So I got to thinking about Greek myth and this is what happened. I don't know how the product placement came in, but I will say that I have been really sick lately, watching a lot of television (including 30 Rock). I didn't watch the whole movie, but I hope that Tina Fey is in it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Magnetic Fields's 69 Love Songs, Illustrated

Ahem...May please I divert your attention from these meandering political tirades that currently make up my little weblog momentarily and cast a light on a most fantastic blog project, an illustrated revisioning of the Magnetic Fields's masterpiece 69 Love Songs, and on the day that the band has released the gorgeous new album Realism?

From "If You Don't Cry":

Now listen:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Blog for Choice Day

Well it's that time of year again, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Below is my post to honor the day. It's been 37 years since the landmark case paved the way for women to have more control over their bodies; however, today the procedure seems only slightly less stigmatized than it was in the '70s, with the added bonus of an accelerated pressure for women to contribute to the workforce like never before.

Women are on the brink of making up the majority of the workforce in America, and when it comes to abortion, I think the debate needs to be elevated beyond the neanderthal argument of: "Abortion is wrong. It is murder. It is amoral." Regardless of how morally superior anti-abortionists believe themselves to be, the reality is, women will abort fetuses for their own survival. They will do it illegally, they will endanger their health, and in some cases they will die in the process. But they will do it for critical and rationally-minded reasons. Not because they do not value human life and are inherently selfish or evil.

According to Planned Parenthood's Alan Guttmacher Institute and the Center for Disease Control (found here):

  • Black women are more than 4.8 times more likely than non-Hispanic white women to have an abortion, and Hispanic women are 2.7 times as likely (AGI).

  • The abortion ratio for unmarried women is 510 abortions for every 1,000 live births. For married women it is 61 abortions for every 1,000 live births (CDC).

  • On average, women give at least 3 reasons for choosing abortion: 3/4 say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or other responsibilities; about 3/4 say they cannot afford a child; and 1/2 say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner (AGI).

  • What do these stats say? Economics play a major role in the decision to have an abortion. So it's all fine and good to be able to afford to be morally superior. Stand out there in front of clinics with your morbid pictures of bloody fetuses, stalk abortion doctors, plot and scheme about blowing up clinics and become a domestic terrorist. But if you don't see the irony, you're just not intelligent enough to grasp your own political principles and should probably shut your trap.

    You can also announce to the whole world how ethical you are for never buying illegal drugs and label a cancer patient a heathen for smoking marijuana. That is your choice. But when anti-abortionists attempt to use politics to advance theories of morality, and endanger individual civil liberties, something is deeply wrong in this country. Like the marijuana or even the arms debate, these issues are complex. Public policy should never placate the morality preferences of a select few, or the rather, the stupidity of the masses.

    Below is an interview with the late George Tiller, which just surfaced recently via Physicians for Reproductive Health and Choice:

    Tiller was known to wear a "Trust Women" button on his shirt. I hope he is never forgotten, and that one day all women will indeed be trusted to do what they feel is right to their own bodies, and for their own lives.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    The weight of Haiti

    I keep reading about what's going on in Haiti one week after the 7.0 earthquake, estimated to have killed at least 200,000 people, and I wonder: do Americans know what's going on over there? I mean, do they really know?
    There have been several faulty news reports claiming that chaos has been unleashed in Port-Au-Prince ever since a recent prison outbreak. As the lede of a recent CBS News story callously claimed:
    "Once again in Port-Au-Prince today, looting and lawlessness spread like a virus."
    Really? "Like a virus"? Well shit! We'd better call in the entire US National Guard and arm them with the best tasers, pellet guns and tear gas money can buy! The kind of propaganda CBS is providing here is eerie in its blatant attempt to justify sending more security forces to the ravished black republic, rather than sending humanitarian aid. And what's more, the Heritage Foundation came out with a statement suggesting the lucrative nature of the situation:
    "In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region."
    This is just another prime example of neoliberal economic opportunism during times of natural disaster, a prime example of what Naomi Klein warned about in The Shock Doctrine.
    But revisiting the idea that there is somehow a situation that calls for military efforts in lieu of humanitarian aid: If there is any sort of outbreak of violence (and there has not been any reports of humanitarian aid workers getting attacked thus far)--which, you know, is completely possible given that these people have been starving to death and suffering unimaginable physical pain--it would have absolutely nothing to do with greed or opportunism. It's like the MSM wants to turn the situation into the LA riots all of a sudden. This is just unacceptable.
    Over the past week I've been following the coverage of Democracy Now! which has been compassionate and heartbreaking, and completely respectful to the Haitian population. Unlike those incompetent, asinine schmucks at CNN like Anderson Cooper, with his muscle tee, posing as a serious newsman, but really just exploiting the situation. I cried my heart out when I heard about the 27 year-old Haitian med student who was trapped inside a building for nearly a week and had to drink the blood of surrounding corpses just to stay alive. Or this outrageous story brought by a DN correspondent:
    "...a helicopter from a Mormon charity had landed. It was on the ground, and there was Haitians all around, young and old, waiting for food to be handed out. This helicopter took off, off the ground, and began throwing the food down at the Haitians. It did not distribute it when it was on the ground. They threw the food from the air. These were ... See Morepackets of bread that they were throwing. It ignited just fury and indignation on the ground by the people there. They began screaming. One man started crying. He said, “We are a proud people. We are not dogs for you to throw bones at.”
    Guardian columnist Seumas Milne rightfully called this "a result of calculated impoverishment" in his article the other day. Milne writes:
    "Most scandalously, US commanders have repeatedly turned away flights bringing medical equipment and ­emergency supplies from organisations such as the World Food Programme and Médecins Sans Frontières, in order to give priority to landing troops. Despite the remarkable patience and solidarity on the streets and the relatively small scale of looting, the aim is said to be to ensure security and avoid "another Somalia" – a reference to the US ­military's "Black Hawk Down" ­humiliation in 1993. It's an approach that ­certainly chimes with well-­established traditions of keeping Haiti under control."
    The situation in Haiti is absolutely devastating. But not nearly as devastating as what will happen if the U.S. gets away with militarizing and capitalizing upon the devastation itself.

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    What English sounds like

    Can't remember how I found this video, but it's some Italian pop singer spouting off gibberish that he thinks sounds like English. I luuuurv it, and wonder, if I listen to this song long enough, will I know the "chorus" by heart?

    Friday, January 15, 2010

    Neil Hamburger

    Last night I went to see the Tim and Eric Awesome Songs Puss Whip Bang Gang show. Which was a lot better than it sounds. But what really made the overall experience was opening act Neil Hamburger, the faux-lounge comedian and alter ego of one Portland, Oregon-based comedian Gregg Turkington.
    I was wedged between two friends, both absolute Tim and Eric obsessives, both into the same wacky British humor I grew up with, but one utterly disgusted by Mr. Hamburger, while the other (along with myself) roared with laughter, and had to repeat some of these jokes back a few times to make sure they were as off-color and hideous as they sounded. With Hamburger, the schtick is more about the posturing, phlegm-clearing, spitting into the cocktail, nervously brushing the comb-over to the side, yelling at the audience to shut up even though everyone is quiet, et al, that really makes it.
    These jokes are bad. Real bad. But I just had to sit down and jot them all down before I went to bed last night, as if forgetting them would somehow leave a void in the very fabric of my soul. The part of the soul that yearns to blurt out every taboo, politically-incorrect idea that pops into one's head like a compulsive mental patient. Here they all are, in a somewhat chronological order:

    1. What was the last good thing that the Osmonds produced in the last four decades?
    A stillborn.

    2. Why don't rapists eat at TGIFridays?
    Because it's hard to rape with a stomach ache.

    3. On the day before he was executed, why did the last meal that the Washington sniper requested consist of a can of Pringle's chips, a Nestle's chocolate bar, and a bucket of KFC chicken?
    Because those were his sponsors.

    4. Why did Colonel Sanders, on his death bed, give Sally Fields the secret spice recipe to make his chicken?
    He was desperate for a blow job.

    5. Why did God give Smashmouth five hit singles?
    It was a clerical mixup, he meant to give them all syphilis.

    6. What happens if you put one copper piece, a one cent coin, into each member of Smashmouth's ass?
    They turn into Nickleback.

    7. What's worse than 9/11?

    8. Why did Heath Ledger win over the hearts and minds of a generation?
    Because he was a brilliant actor.

    9. Why did soon-to-die Heath Ledger call Mary-Kate Olsen right before his quick demise?
    He had just taken some pills that he needed to know how to throw up.

    10. Why did Julia Roberts smear shit on her vagina?
    To honor Heath Ledger. It a Tibetan Buddhist custom, to honor the dead that way.

    11. How many Red Hot Chili Peppers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    It depends on how recently they've shot up.

    12. What did the Red Hot Chili Peppers do when they heard that no one liked their recent tracks?
    They wore more long-sleeved shirts.

    13. Why did the Red Hot Chili Peppers want to be taken under the bridge?
    There heard there was a plate they could poop on.

    14. What is the difference between Harriet Tubman and the Red Hot Chili Peppers?
    Harriet Tubman was a heroine to the slaves, but the Red Hot Chili Peppers were slaves to the heroine.

    15. Why did God create Domino's Pizza?
    To punish humanity for all the complacency during the Holocaust.

    16. How do you get your dog to stop licking its own balls?
    Coat them in Domino's Pizza sauce.

    17. What do you get when you cross Michael Jackson's life with Farrah Fawcett's death?
    I don't know, but if I were you I'd stay away from the ass.

    18. Who sponsored Michael Jackson's funeral?
    Jack in the Box.

    19. What do you call it when a homeless wino is raped and mugged by a sexual deviant?
    A Wham reunion.

    20. Why do the gays like Cher and Barbara Streisand so much?
    Because it reminds people that there are easier people to hate than the gays.

    21. How do you get Carlos Santana to stop trying to molest your children?
    Put a guitar in his hands.

    22. What did the medical doctors call it when they decided to cut off the life support they gave to a man in the hospital treated for being an imbecile?
    Eric Clapton: Unplugged.

    23. What do you get when you cross a pit bull with a hockey mom?
    A child with down syndrome, apparently.

    24. What's the worst thing that Kenny G can give a woman after a one-night stand?
    His latest album.

    25. What do you get when you cross someone with down syndrome with a person with Turret's?
    Ladies and gentleman...Robin Williams!

    Thursday, December 31, 2009

    Top Ten Songs of 2009

    By the end of two-thousand and nine, not just the end of a year, but the end of a decade and literally "an era," music was in a strange and wondrous place. In addition to the myriad "best of" music lists floating through the internets, crammed with the voices of both mainstream and independent audiophiles ad nauseam, I would like to add my own paltry two cents by submitting ten little ditties that had me no less than obsessed in 2009. And as for the past decade and what it's meant for music, I'll let the editors at Rolling Stone sum up that one:
    "It was a decade in which we saw our leaders squander the peace and prosperity of the previous decade. We watched as they sold us into an endless war, stomped civil liberties and trashed the economy, all while the icebergs kept melting and the seas kept rising. It was a decade of lost chances, which we can only hope are not last chances. The ’00s really began on December 12th, 2000, the day the Supreme Court blocked Florida from recounting ballots and anointed George W. Bush. Other bad days were to follow — most famously 9/11. But we never recovered from 12/12, spent the rest of the decade trying to forget it and mostly succeeded. Before you knew it, we were at the airport, waiting in line to take off our shoes. Why? Who knew? We just were. Yet music offered shelter from the storm, even if it was just for one three-minute song at a time."

    I know that this list may make those with a more sophisticated musical palate contemptuous, but I'm going to go with what hit me the hardest on an emotional/visceral level. Without further ado:

    1. Radiohead: "Hearing Damage"
    Like me and my "going rogue" top 10 list, Radiohead doesn't care what you and Matthew Friedberger think. Radiohead is gonna rule the world while giving away albums all up in the internets's face, and they're gonna kick out the jams by producing a track for a teenybopper vampire flick. Because you know what? They just don't give a fuck. As a result, their music is always timeless and utterly original. "Hearing Damage" is a powerful salvo of Krautrock with it's 4/4 beat and dark bass-heavy synths. And Yorke's minimal, disaffected lines interrogating themes of alienation and schizophrenia are pitch perfect, appealing to film viewers and beyond.
    And okay, I'll be the first to admit it: I really enjoyed Twilight: New Moon. Kristen Stewart is the Keanu Reeves of her generation, and I can't wait for her next move as Joan Jett in that Runaways biopic. The music for Twilight was absolutely amazing, it captured the otherworldliness of the supernatural running amok in a small Pacific Northwest town so well that it seemed to give hints of a Twin Peaks aesthetic. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club deserves an honorable mention here, as does the collaboration between Bon Iver and St. Vincent, and The Killers's "A White Demon Love Song." Also, Lykke Li's song "Possibility" was utterly heartbreaking and haunting, and it really fit well on this soundtrack. All I had as a preteen was the Cocktail and Dirty Dancing soundtracks, just a pile of odd '50s nostalgia crap in the creative void that was post-Reagan America. To the naysayers, I say be glad younger generations are getting turned on to exciting new artists. Perhaps one day we'll live in a world without Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers (a girl can dream).
    Anyways, enjoy this clip from the movie. Srsly. The music is incorporated into this badass vampire v. werewolf scene really well.

    2. Bat for Lashes: "Daniel"
    Considering how well Natasha Khan's last two albums have been received, and her unmistakable imprint on music trends over the last few years, I've really been surprised that her work has been overlooked in many a retrospective. Consider her conceptual trademark: she's dark, mystical, obsessed with the '80s and seems to have risen from Mordor to unleash her siren call. Will you respond? How could anyone not to a song like "Daniel"?
    And when the fires came
    The smell of cinders and rain
    Perfumed almost everything
    We laughed and laughed and laughed

    ...And as my heart ran round
    My dreams pulled me from the ground
    Forever to search for the flame
    For home again
    For home again

    Khan's powerful pipes, easily fluctuating from deep, Cat Power-esque molasses to soaring soprano heights, easily make her my stand-in when going through Kate Bush withdrawals. "Daniel" really seems to highlight the great leap Khan took from her first album Fur and Gold, whose primary ambient device simply consisted of cold, dark keyboard arrangements that seemed to come straight out of a Dario Argento horror flick.

    It should also be noted that Bat for Lashes was a major player in the whole Halloween aesthetic of many emerging bands in '09. The obvious example being actor Ryan Gosling's much-lauded Dead Man's Bones, where dark piano ballads calling upon Edward Gorey-inspired imagery featured a chorus of children, who were of course all wearing Halloween costumes while performing. Other bands creating goth '80s-inspired sounds more on the electro side were Cold Cave and Horror Disco. And then, of course, there's Fever Ray, which I will get to...

    3. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes: "Home"
    This song came completely out of left field. I thought it was an old country tune drudged up and remastered upon a quick listen, but when I found out it was new I soon became obsessed. My love for this song, and this band, however, is bitter sweet.

    When I found out that lead singer Alex Ebert is actually the former lead singer of Ima Robot, a supremely dreadful Los Angeles-based electro punk outfit, I felt a bit cheated. I really wanted Edward Sharpe to be a real person, and for him and his family of musicians to have lived in a Partridge Family bus, scouring the deep south for grubby watering holes to showcase their roots country souls. In fact, about three months ago I bumped into the lead singer on Market Street here in San Francisco, as he was stumbling out of the Four Seasons at three in the morning (disclosure: I, too was stumbling out of the Four Seasons). I ran up to him and screamed "Edward Sharpe" and he, in turn, gave me a big old hug in his white linen '60s cult leader uniform, and Jesus hair pulled into a bun.

    Apparently, Edward Sharpe is simply the name of a character in a book Ebert wrote after a meltdown and subsequent rehabilitation program. And after hearing about his motivations for the album, I can't help but respect his vision. When asked by the Onion AV club about recording on a 24-track with 12 musicians, Ebert said:
    "We were all experiencing a feeling of stupidity and fragmentation, feeling disjointed in some way and especially fuzzed out by technology and staring at screens. Musically, I was looking for authenticity in my life and I guess that quest spilled over into the actual process of recording it. It made sense to me that we recorded [the album] in a way that was simpatico with the whole concept of the music."
    Technically, from a musician's standpoint (disclosure: I am not a musician), this band is not good. I've seen them live, and about four of the band members appear as nothing more than human props, standing around pretending to play instruments that the microphone doesn't seem to pick up. And the trumpet player that belts out the solo halfway through the song is a terrible hack. But despite it all, this band gave one of the best live performances I've ever seen. The way they worked the crowd with call-and-response and foot stomping was magic, pure magic. My hands were so sore from clapping, and my feet so achy from stomping that it was ridiculous. All I can say is, the overwhelming spirit of this band is undeniable, and this song so classic and memorable, that it deserves to be on this list.

    4. Cass McCombs: "You Saved My Life"
    This waltzy country number snuck in as the closing track on McCombs' Catacombs, the most accessible, pop-friendly album of the singer/songwriter's career. It's one of the most heartwarmingly romantic songs I've ever heard, and I will no doubt play it at my wedding whereby my bridesmaids will all slit their wrists, and the priest will shoot himself in the face upon listening to it. What I'm trying to say is: this is a really sad song. But my gawd I wish all country music sounded like this--so pure and heartfelt, with the only country twang to be heard coming out of a guitar; not someone's obnoxious voice.

    5. The Dirty Projectors: "Stillness Is The Move"
    This song is on everybody else in the world's list, and rightfully so. The Dirty Projectors made a quantum leap from experimental indie rock, to more mainstream sounds seeped in West African guitar stylings and, as in this song, warped hip-hop beats. Their sound is so original that it's nearly impossible to explain to someone in a few sentences, and I've been grappling with it all year. This song is also, conceptually, beautiful and moving, and the yearning that background vocalist-turned-torch singer Amber Coffman evokes seems both primal and carefully punctuated--you can literally picture her belting it out on a mountaintop. I'd also seen this band live, and it was absolutely mesmerizing. The female vocalists were harmonizing with inhuman precision that made me contemplate the possibility that they were in fact androids from the future.

    6. Bill Callahan: "All Thoughts Are Prey to Some Beast"
    If you don't find yourself zoning out and contemplating your own existence while gazing out the window and imagining birds taking flight every time the strings in this song set in, you just don't have a soul.

    This song makes me want to learn guitar so bad it hurts. The lyrics here are so stunning and gorgeous, that it makes me wonder if Callahan has a book of poetry floating about. If so, I need to steal that shit and read the hell out of it:
    The leafless tree looked like a brain
    The birds within were all the thoughts and desires within me
    Hoppin' around from branch to branch, or snug in their nests listenin' in

    An eagle came down over the horizon and shook the branches with its sight
    The softer thoughts: starlings, finches and wrens
    The softer thoughts, they all took flight
    ...Sweet desire and soft thoughts, return to me
    Sweet desire and soft thoughts, return to me


    7. Phoenix: "1901"
    I don't know how/why/what could possibly compel a group of Frenchies in the '00s to create such poptastic hits that sound straight out of '80s, but they've done it--really well. I don't think anyone can understand the mangled English they claim to utilize throughout this album, but in "1901," the momentum that builds up to the lines: "It's twenty seconds to the last call/you're going hey hey hey hey hey hey hey" --it hits you real hard from there, and doesn't let up. Before Cadillac stole this ditty for their crappy commercials, this album, Wolfgang Amadeus, for me brought to mind images of neon-tinged aerobics fads and John Hughes films. This summer I spent a few weeks down in LA, and blasted the album in my rental car while heading down Beverly Drive, which has a width of a football field and is lined with palm trees so tall that they must have been planted during the Jurassic period. Cruising by pastoral front yards and palatial, obscene colonial bastardizations made me feel like Axel Foley, and that spirit couldn't be complete without this song. All my fondest memories of being a kid in the '80s seemed to be captured in this album.

    8. Fever Ray: "Seven"
    If I may, I'd like to paint a picture of walking in on this song as it was being performed in a grand ballroom here in San Francisco a few months back: A synthesized voice sounding akin to Siouxsie Sioux blasted along with a bass line so strong it made my intestines vibrate. Although I couldn't even make out the silhouettes on stage, they seemed to be conjuring spirits with tribal celtic intensity from behind a foggy neon glow on a stage emitting laser beams. As lasers weaved and crossed through the tops of the audience's heads, a woman dressed as a futuristic Indian chief flailed her arms around in the corner near the bar. Was I at the Regency Ballroom or the Mos Eisley Cantina?

    This song is freaky and sounds like nothing else out there; quite simply I love it. It really seems to pick up at the second movement, at "I know it, I think I know it from a hymn/They've said so, it doesn't need more explanation." Word.

    Watch the video only if you want nightmares.

    9. Taken By Trees: "Watch The Waves"
    Unfortunately, the only track off Victoria Bergsman's side project, Taken By Trees (Bergsman is most commonly known as the female vocalist for Peter Bjorn and John, or from her own bands, El Perro Del Mar, and The Concretes), to gain any attention was a cover of Animal Collective's "My Girls," entitled, "My Boys." Too bad. This album was as gentle as a lullaby, as environmentally-conscious as Green Peace, and as fascinating as a Middle East travel diary. The Swedish artist, inspired by the music of India and Pakistan, actually set out and recorded the album, East of Eden, in Pakistan, with the help of local Sufi musicians. The result, a masterful collection of real deal regional rhythms and harmonies gently sprinkled with the sounds of birds and insects, is Bergsman's most impressive project to date. Side note: this is the only modern, studio-recorded song where I find the use of the Pan flute actually acceptable. Listen to "Watch the Waves" here, and watch this short National Geographic documentary about her journey:

    10. Real Estate: "Suburban Dogs"I don't know why this song gets me, with its clichéd, low-fi garage band sound. I don't even think it stands out as something nearly as unique as the aforementioned songs on my list. And there have been several notable garage bands that really stood out here in the San Francisco scene like Girls, Grass Widow, Thee Oh Sees, etc. This was truly a remarkable year for localized, low-fi garage and psychedelic rock. Maybe it's a backlash against all these mash-up movements, and re-imagined versions of the '80s--perhaps we're overdue for a grunge revival? At any rate, there is something striking about Real Estate, and something undeniably universal about the mood and atmosphere that "Suburban Dogs" evokes. The twinkling, harmonizing guitars seem to undulate and drift like waves along the shores of Atlantic City (that's just what I imagine, since the band is from Jersey). But I could also see this song as providing the perfect soundtrack for so many lazy summer days in Santa Cruz, or any suburban town in California, nay anywhere, for that matter. But I think what made me fall in love with this song is the lyrics:
    Suburban dogs get afraid when it rains
    Suburban dogs bark at slow moving trains
    They'll run from your house and come back the same day
    Suburban dogs are in love with their chains

    This song gives me a strange kind of nostalgia for teen angst and romanticized depression; I wish I could have penned a poem like this as a youth.

    I also thought of this song when I read a recent news item about how more and more Americans are chained to their current residences, unable to relocate for better jobs because they can't afford it. Again: sigh.

    Well on that cheery note--that's it! All ten. Happy New Year!

    Things I learned from the New Yorker 2009 Quiz

    Sometimes you just watch The Daily Show and think you've heard every absurdity there is to know about in Washington. That's what I thought, until I did this New Yorker quiz. Here are some highlights:

    --Larry King actually thought that Michael Moore wrote "The Times They Are A-Changin.'"

    --G. Gordon Liddy said of the Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, "Let's hope that the key conferences aren't when she's menstruating or something."

    --Sen. Joe Lieberman said he decided to oppose the Medicare buy-in because the liberals seemed to like it even better than the public option.

    --Bill Gates released mosquitoes into the audience at the TED conference and said, "There's no reason only poor people should have the experience."

    --Oklahoma senator James Inhofe said, "If global warming really exists, explain that to the people of Oklahoma. We had the largest snowstorm in the history of Marches three days ago.

    Tuesday, December 22, 2009

    Seasonal Waltz

    My very first commissioned poem was completed today, and sent via the electronic mail to my dear pen pal Sean in London, Ontario. I was paid in chocolate, a good book, and a Pee-Wee Herman doll.

    Enjoy (or don't, if, y'know, poetry isn't your thing):


    Wind chants “fall into me”

    It purrs and it whistles

    First thing you hear

    after the din diminishes

    of downtown streets

    that bustle and beep.

    As the swirl of frustration

    wears thin, looses grip.

    So you cease to fight it, and cease to hide

    Hair in tangles,

    ears hot; turning red.

    Soothe the dry sore skin of all winters past

    Incite morning’s biting kiss.

    Countless walks in barren courtyards

    Skeletal trees,

    skeletal umbrellas

    left to the elements both harsh and unkind.

    On these gray days, and blackest of nights

    a single tears streams gently down—

    Let it go

    like a snake and the shed of his skin.


    Don’t forget to catch the day

    Like a clear photograph of a bird in flight

    Motion in the air made still

    Don’t let it blur, linger on.

    You sit on the front porch

    watching children jump,

    kick, crunch the leaves.

    Cinnamon, cardamom,

    nutmeg swirl at the top of a mug

    like a dream.

    How many tears drops does it take to cleanse,

    rattle the cobwebs of the heart?

    It’s a question you ask only on the days when you forget

    to forget to forget to forget.

    But the wisdom of days spent

    basking in reverie

    come back,

    come back to you still.

    Of awe and beauty,

    love and endearment

    This is the language we speak.


    Into the tall grass

    go children and lovers

    to their oblivion.


    so boundless is dear.

    Soon weeds wreak havoc

    Flowers fight, stand your ground.

    While cascading drops from cotton ball clouds

    Trickle down, tap and shower

    Replenish your soil, bring back light.

    Sunshine like mother’s arms

    So fleeting,


    On days like these

    the night envelops it all

    Too soon.

    And there’s a vulnerability,

    you recall—

    a soft fear you miss

    in illness, while in bed,

    waiting for a gentle hand.


    Under weathered tarmac, the grass still grows

    Roots still move through the earth

    And through folly and hardship

    and doom you know

    that this is but one way to see it.

    Parallel worlds, the dreamers say—

    Tilt the kaleidoscope.

    You’ve been beat down by the end of a day

    Yet neglected waves at beaches

    never slow.

    Poor souls in grottos

    frightened to find what awaits:

    The laughter of summer,

    its joys and its triumphs—

    all part of the mad adventure.

    Gravity move in reversal you say.

    Start it all over, children cry out.

    Give back what you’ve taken,

    for better, for worse

    and birth, only birth

    plead the old and unwise.